Hometown: Florence, Italy
Current Position: Owner and physician at Beaumont Gastroenterology Services
Education: M.D. from the University of Florence, PhD. in biology from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland/National Institute of Health
Community Involvement: Passionate supporter of the Plattsburgh Farmer’s & Crafters Market, both as a consumer and with organizing, marketing and event planning efforts.
When he was five years old, Paolo Fedi already knew he wanted to become a doctor. As an elementary student in Florence, Italy, he had enough curiosity about human anatomy to conduct research on the pancreas. He completed training and practiced medicine in Italy until the age of 25 when he came to the United States to pursue a PhD in cancer biology. Along the way his path veered toward research and science and he found himself working at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City as an assistant professor. Ultimately he corrected his course toward practicing medicine and landed in a group gastroenterology practice in Plattsburgh in 2006.
During the last 10 years Fedi has grown increasingly passionate about the history, culture, food, and people of this region. A collector of historic local maps and artifacts, he can give you a detailed tour of historic Durkee Street from his new office window. He opened Beaumont Gastroenterology Services as a solo practitioner during the summer of 2015, bucking the group-practice trend that most of his peers rely on to make ends meet in the healthcare business.
It is no accident that Fedi chose a downtown location for his practice. “This is a great town with a great history background,” he explained. “I am proud to be a part of the downtown renaissance that I see happening, and I hope that I can contribute to that in some way.”
In the name of improving customer service for his patients, Fedi threw out the rule book when designing his new practice. A perfect example was his decision to forego the traditional role of an office administrator in favor of a greeter, who he believed was more critical for ensuring a positive patient experience. His greeter serves as a friendly face at the front door (and not behind a glass window) to warmly welcome patients and their families. It is his passion toward patient focused care that drove him to take the risk of opening a new and non-traditionally organized practice. This same passion was evident throughout SB’s interview with Paolo Fedi.
SB: What important lessons did you learn early in your career?
PF: Do not rely on other people. Do your homework and build your- self a solid base because that is what you need to move forward. Yes, you need to have relationships and friends, but at the end, you are really alone in your path.
Also, be honest with yourself. Don’t be afraid to look at yourself in the mirror and see who you are. A lot of people are not really honest with themselves; they convince themselves that they are someone who they are not.
SB: What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
PF: When I was working in research at Mount Sinai hospital, my mentor at that time told me, “You need to live and breathe science if you want to be successful in this field.” Even though I was successful, I don’t think I was as successful as I wanted to be there because I still wanted to be a doctor. I was built to work with people—to take care of the human being, not to work with mice and cells. So I had to retrain. I decided to leave a high paying job and go back to complete six years of post-graduate school in the States in order to become a physician here.
The point is this—find the work that is really your passion, because that is how you will be successful. Sometimes it is difficult to know what it is, but once you know, throw yourself toward it. Pay the price to achieve what you want.
SB: What advice would you give to aspiring medical professionals?
PF: Please do not go into medicine for the prestige or the money. You’re not going to get rewarded for those. You need to go there to serve and to help people. If you are driven to those feelings, then medicine is for you. It is not an easy job. It is not an eight to five job. You have to constantly educate yourself. You need incredible interpersonal skills in order to build confidence and give support to another person. I love being a doctor. It makes my life difficult because it keeps me extremely busy, but I wouldn’t be able to do anything else. I enjoy doing this.
SB: How did you discover Plattsburgh?
PF: I was born and raised near Florence, in a small town more like Plattsburgh. I actually like more of a rural environment. When I was working in New York City, it was a great experience, but it was so chaotic. I knew it was not a city I would choose to live in. I was look- ing for a job outside of New York City. I had vacationed throughout Vermont and I remembered taking the ferry to Plattsburgh on my way to a cabin in the Catskills. I was fascinated by the lake and this cluster of places. I thought it would be a better world for me here. In a small town, you actually can affect people and make a difference much more than in a larger city. You can say something and people will follow. You can embrace the people here and their families, and make a difference. I always wanted to be more like a country doctor than an unapproachable doctor from a prestigious background.
SB: How do you approach customer service in your practice?
PF: First of all, doctors generally do customer service poorly. I opened the new office so I could do things in a different way. In my life I have always been a very critical thinker, always challenging why we do things the way we do. It upsets me when people answer, ‘Because we have always done it like this.’ In 2000 years of history, haven’t we learned anything? The goal of the office was to make a pleasant experience for the patient. I tried to create an environment that is friendly. I created the role of a person who is a greeter. She is not sit- ting behind a glassed in window; it’s more like you’re both sitting in a living room. She is not going to grill you with questions, she is there to make you feel comfortable. When you are more comfortable you can open yourself and we can help you better. That is why we have so much artwork on the walls and fewer educational posters. It feels more like a home.
SB: How did you choose the name Beaumont for your new practice?
PF: Since I’ve been in Plattsburgh I have been fascinated by its history. I collect historical maps and artifacts and many of them decorate the office. In 1833 a physician by the name William Beaumont published a book in Plattsburgh. It became one of the most important books in the physiology of the gastrointestinal tract. He introduced a new concept in his book about how weather can affect gastrointestinal function and how stress can change it also. His original office was where the Ashley furniture store is. I looked around for a long time to try and find an original copy and I finally found one. It is amazing to think that it was published right here.
SB: If you could have dinner and spend an evening with any well-known person, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
PF: Two years ago I became an American citizen. I chose this country, I chose to live here, and I am honestly proud to be a citizen. When I became a citizen, I received a letter from President Obama welcoming me. The day I got the letter I was very proud.
I would like to meet with President Obama for a few reasons. He is almost my age, and he managed to become the first African American president of the United States. Obama came from a minority back- ground and he overcame many obstacles to achieve a position of power. I would like to sit down with him and talk about how he did it. I think I could learn things from him that would help me with some of the things that I struggle with every day as a foreigner with a prestigious job in our small town.
SB: How do you want to be remembered?
PF: The legacy I want to leave is this: I want to have built a service that will provide you help and support. I want you to feel like I was actually listening to you and supporting you. I want to do more than just prescribe you a pill or do a procedure. I want you to feel that I provide you with a more holistic approach that helps improve your quality of life. I want to be part of that team that makes your life more rewarding and allows you to enjoy your life more.